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Match Preview: Unfashionable Tezuka Leading Eagles' Asian Charge

Photo credit: Football Association of Singapore

In the immediate aftermath of Vincent Bezecourt's season-ending injury, an exasperated Noor Ali tried all other of his charges to fill the creative void, but to no avail.

Iqbal Hussain, Yushi Yamaya, Shahfiq Ghani, Joshua Pereira etc. had been experimented in that attacking midfield role in recent games. Yet, Noor could not get Geylang International's offensive engine going.

Indeed, the Eagles' chance creation had drastically dipped in the past few matches, with opposing goalkeepers hardly being put to the test.

To shake up his team's tepid attack, the 48-year-old Singaporean coach staked his last throw of the die by turning to an unlikely fix: Takahiro Tezuka.

A holding midfielder by trade who regains possession and sprays simple square passes or odd diagonal balls forward, Tezuka has lately been asked by his coach Noor to make late runs into the box to support his team's attacking moves.

The tactical tweak contributed to him scoring his first goal of the campaign against Tanjong Pagar United on July 15. Timing himself to perfection to be on the shoulder of the last Jaguars defender, Tezuka collected a forward pass from Yamaya before calmly dispatching the ball into the net.

The former Albirex Niigata player followed up that strike with an assist in last Saturday's Eastern derby when his firm header at the far post stung the palm of the Tampines Rovers custodian before landing on the feet of Rio Sakuma to clinch a dramatic winner at the death.

Noor hopes that his Japanese import would keep up his recent success in front of goal when his side visit Brunei DPMM at Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday (July 28).

A victory against the seventh-placed Bruneian outfit, whom Geylang had comfortably beaten twice this year, would see their gap with Asian-chasing Balestier Khalsa slash to three points.

However, the upcoming contest may not be as straightforward as the head-to-head record suggests, as the Wasps had recently posted impressive results against the big boys of the league - a 1-1 draw against Albirex followed by a 3-1 triumph against Lion City Sailors.

Under such circumstances, Tezuka's calming presence in the middle of the pitch is more than needed, and hopefully he could keep Geylang's flickering attack engine going so as to power the team to a potential final berth of Asian qualification.

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